Barry Sanders. Just the name evokes some of the most memorable moments in football history. He began his journey in college at Oklahoma State and left early after winning the Heisman Trophy. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions, where he had a brilliant ten year run. Here are some of the brightest moments of Barry Sanders football career.
For those who followed Barry in college, the memories were great and the numbers were staggering.
In his junior season of 1988:
Sanders rushed for 2,628 yards, an NCAA record.
He had 3,249 total yards, an NCAA record.
Sanders scored 39 TDs (37 rushing, 1 kick return, 1 punt return), an NCAA record.
He averaged 7.6 yards per carry.
Barry rushed for over 300 yards in four games.
(Sanders also ran for 222 yards and scored 5 touchdowns in his three quarters of the Holiday Bowl - a game that was not included with his season statistics.)
There are two games against Tampa Bay stand out. One at home and one on the road. The Sunday night game in 1994 against Tampa Bay in Pontiac. Barry had 37 yards rushing at halftime so nobody saw it coming. He rushed for 237 yards, 200 in the 2nd half. He became the first player to rush for 200 yards in a game without scoring a TD. His game in 1997 at Tampa Bay when he had two TD runs of 80+ yards. He finished the game with 215 yards rushing. The Lions would win, 27-9.
The Monday night game at the Silverdome against the Raiders and Bo Jackson. Barry was outstanding in his first ever appearance on Monday Night Football. He had 176 yards rushing and 2 TD’s as the Lions lost a thriller, 38-31. Bo Jackson said after the game the “Barry is my new idol. When I Grow up, I want to be just like him.” The legend began to grow.
His big matchup on Monday Night Football against Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys in September of 1994. Arguably, the two best running backs in the NFL at the time, Barry was electric. He finished with 40 rushing attempts, the most for a single game in his career. He also gained 194 as the Lions beat the defending Super Bowl champs in Dallas, 20-17.
The Bears had seen enough of Barry Sanders that you knew eventually, he would produce his magic even against them. The video doesn't lie as Barry escapes the Chicago Bears defense on one of his greatest TD runs ever. It was literally a “How did he do that?” moment.
Barry runs for a TD against Dallas in the Lions’ only playoff win since the late 50’s. Barry somehow got lost in the sea of players with some Cowboys thinking he was tackled. He escaped, darted behind DT Tony Casillas, juked LB Ken Norton and sprinted untouched to the end zone.
Dec 21, 1997. Barry rushes for 184 yards to become just the third player in NFL history to rush for 2000 yards in a season. The Lions beat the Jets 13-10 in the season finale. He finishes the season with 2053 yards.